Personal Stories of Faith and Religion from South Korea


Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the entire staircase. – Martin Luther King Jr.

Religion is a major component of Korean society, yet few English Blogs in Korea attempt to address or write articles regarding faith-based experiences in the ROK.  In my opinion, this is a huge mistake.  People across the world and in Korea are hungry for these stories.

In Korea, most expat blogs tend to lean towards either anti-religious or at best, agnostic sentiments.  While I understand and respect those points of views, I feel like the faith-based communities in Korea are not fairly represented.  Typically, I only see religious posts concerning a few of the more eccentric cults in Korea.  This unfairly excludes numerous positive experiences of Koreans and expats who are actively involved in religious organizations.

I also believe there are many questions about religion in Korea that people would like to see answered on a personal level.  People want to know what life is like for Christians in South Korea.  They want to know things like why Korean Christians are so fervent and how did Christianity explode in Korea while it remains dormant in most of Asia.  People would love to see the faith and practices of a Buddhist from the Jogye Order.  They would love to hear personal explanations about what separates Korean Buddhism from the rest of the world.  I personally want to talk to the lovely ladies who I’ve seen at Buddhist temples at 4:00 AM during my sunrise photo shoots.   And finally, what about Shamanism, the indigenous faith of Korea?  How active is Shamanism in modern Korea?  How often do practitioners of other faiths turn to Shamanism in times of need?

Additionally, people might have simpler questions like what church should they attend or how do they get hooked up with a Buddhist organization?  What projects are different religious organizations undertaking to help the community?  How do expats exercise their faith in Korea and where can they go for support?

Below is an example of a great faith-based story in Seoul that deserves to be told.  Even though a movie was made on the subject, relatively few people in Korea or across the world know about this courageous pastor and his battle against child abandonment.

Just to be clear, Korea is still a religious country.  According to a 2005 census, 29% of Koreans are Christian, 23% are Buddhist, and 40% claim no religious affiliation.  With over half the population claiming religious affiliation, it’s important to include their voices and experiences within the dialogue of South Korea.

I would like to provide a positive place for believers from any faith to present their experiences, points of views, and stories of practicing their faith in Korea.  As a western Christian, I have more access to Christianity and foreigners in Korea.  Nonetheless, I truly encourage both Koreans and members of other faiths to contact me. I will photograph you and your organizations, and work with you to present your stories and message in the most positive and uplifting manner.

I am welcoming anyone living in Korea of any faith to contact me to share their views and experiences.  Please submit all requests to


For a great overall view of religion in Korea, I highly recommend Daniel Tudor’s Korea:  The Impossible Country.

Personal Stories and Submissions

Tom and Jesus-4
Tom White
From Soju to New Wine

13 thoughts on “Personal Stories of Faith and Religion from South Korea

  1. “40% claim no religious affiliation.”

    In my book this means that Korea is, by international standards, very irreligious. Unfortunately, those who are religious are extremely vocal and powerful.


    1. That’s a blind statement. If you compare with a secular country like Japan where the number is 15% than over 50% is significant. Plus, the US only has an affiliation of 75% and that affiliation is much less active than Korea.


      1. It’s not blind and certainly no more so than your statement. The rate for the UK is 14.6% and the UK is far more irreligious compared to Korea. Over 70% claim to be Christian, but they are just cultural Christians, playing identity games rather than believing in the Good Book.

        Korea, unfortunately, is beset by the entanglement of the Church and power. Korean communities both here and abroad use the Church as a means of furthering interests. In fact, by international standards, Korea is an irreligious country. Even famously heathen Western Europe has similar levels of disbelief. The fact is, religious organizations – as in most other countries – have disproportionate power.


        1. Korea is comparatively possibly more religious than China and Japan, but East Asia is an irreligious region. This is not to deny that religious belief in Korea is fascinating and well worthy of study. I completely support the author in that and thank them for this work. Religious belief here is fascinating, but it is not high by international standards, at all.

          Upon unification (Peace Be Upon It), despite the inevitable desperate scramble for souls that it will result in among Christian and other cults, we will see Korea become one of the most irreligious countries in the world. Assuming we don’t include The Dear Leader as a deity.


  2. I would LOVE to hear more about this…I have not actively searched for more on faith practices in Korea, but this is something that definitively tickles my curiosity as many of these issues have crossed my mind at some point or other. Will def keep an eye on this!
    BTW your blog ROCKS!! Ü
    Keep up the awesomeness!!


    1. Thank you so much! I’m excited about this, too. A lot of people in Hongdae last night were telling me this is a bad idea. However, why not take the time to learn about other people and their faith inside of Korea. I could think of few things more fascinating – I just hope we get well rounded diversified submissions.


  3. Hi my friend and I both live in Sejong and we are Catholic. My friend goes to Church more frequently and is way more involved than I am (she goes at least 2 times a month and is involved in the Choir). We both attend our local Korean Catholic Church and when we can (for her 2 times, me 1) we go to the English mass in Daejeon. I’ve only had a positive experience the one exception being the nun on Christmas morning who almost refused to give me Holy Communion because I don’t have a “Catholic” name – she didn’t understand that my name, is my baptismal name and I don’t have a separate one that I use only for Church. The crowd in Daejeon are amazing!


  4. I should clarify – my big reason for not being as involved in our local parish is due to my huge lack of Korean skills – I can follow mass only because the ritual is ingrained and it’s very distracting not knowing anything that is being said.

    I also have a few friends who are of a different Christian background who attend Church in Daejeon very frequently.

    I think having a discussion on this is a great idea!


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